Climate-based models for pulsed resources improve predictability of consumer population dynamics: Outbreaks of house mice in forest ecosystems

E. Penelope Holland, Alex James, Wendy RUSCOE, Roger Pech, Andrea E. Byrom

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    Accurate predictions of the timing and magnitude of consumer responses to episodic seeding events (masts) are important for understanding ecosystem dynamics and for managing outbreaks of invasive species generated by masts. While models relating consumer populations to resource fluctuations have been developed successfully for a range of natural and modified ecosystems, a critical gap that needs addressing is better prediction of resource pulses. A recent model used change in summer temperature from one year to the next (ΔT) for predicting masts for forest and grassland plants in New Zealand. We extend this climate-based method in the framework of a model for consumer-resource dynamics to predict invasive house mouse (Mus musculus) outbreaks in forest ecosystems. Compared with previous mast models based on absolute temperature, the ΔT method for predicting masts resulted in an improved model for mouse population dynamics. There was also a threshold effect of ΔT on the likelihood of an outbreak occurring. The improved climate-based method for predicting resource pulses and consumer responses provides a straightforward rule of thumb for determining, with one year's advance warning, whether management intervention might be required in invaded ecosystems. The approach could be applied to consumer-resource systems worldwide where climatic variables are used to model the size and duration of resource pulses, and may have particular relevance for ecosystems where global change scenarios predict increased variability in climatic events.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0119139
    Pages (from-to)1-16
    Number of pages16
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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